2014-01-09

O’Neill-Fitzgerald “Christ Myth” Debate, #8: Why should anyone have noticed Jesus?

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by Neil Godfrey

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All posts in this series are archived in the O’Neill-Fitzgerald Debate.

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What a careful, honest or even just competent treatment of the subject would do would be to deal with all relevant positions throughout the analysis . . . . (O’Neill, 2013)

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Tim O’Neill (TO) repeats, and repeats again and again in both 2011 and 2013, another common apologist mantra in his review of David Fitzgerald’s Nailed: Why would any Greek or Roman or even Jewish author have even noticed Jesus, let alone have bothered to write about him? After all, Jesus was just another nobody Jewish peasant and miracle worker — they were a dime a dozen — and this one was, even worse, in the “backblocks of Galilee”. Why, no-one apart from Josephus even mentions much more politically significant Jewish figures (various Jewish rebels) — (not true, as we saw in an earlier post) — so why would a Jewish peasant who didn’t even lead an armed rebellion against Rome have attracted any notice?

As I explained earlier, I have struck out some of TOs manipulative language and substituted more civil terms. In an effort to make an honest man of TO I have also struck out some blatant falsehoods and substituted statements that are verifiable.

  • Given that these historians make no mention of any other Jewish peasant preachers or miracle workers, it is hard to see why Fitzgerald thinks they should have done so with this one. As for things like his entry into Jerusalem, his trial and his crucifixion, it is equally difficult to see why they would be more than a one day wonder even locally. Why Fitzgerald thinks such minor events would be the talk of the whole Empire is a mystery. (2011)
  • A chanting crowd greeting his entrance to Jerusalem, a trial that no-one witnessed and a run-of-the-mill execution are hardly big news compared to mass movements that required the mobilisation of troops and pitched battles. Yet how many other historians so much as mention Athronges, the Samaritan, Theudas or the Egyptian? None. (2011)
  • Like many Mythers [Christ Myth theorists], he seems to think that the lack of any contemporary reference to Jesus is somehow a particularly telling point . . . (2011)
  • But in every case his argument suffers from the same fatal flaw: given that none of these writers mention any other Jewish preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants, there is absolutely no reason to think they “should” have mentioned Jesus. (2011)
  • None of his writers mention any such figures for the same reason they do not mention Jesus: because these writers had no interest in any such Jewish preachers and prophets. (2011)
  • Like most Mythicists, Fitzgerald attempts to make an argument from silence to support the idea that Jesus did not exist. These arguments usually boil down to this:
    • 1. Jesus is not mentioned by {insert First Century writer/writers here},
    • 2. {First Century writer/writers} should have mentioned Jesus if he existed,
    • 3. Therefore Jesus did not exist. (2013)
  • The key point to note here is that the weakness of the Mythicist argument from silence lies in its second premise: in order for the argument to work, it is not enough for the Mythicist to merely note that the writer/s in question don’t mention Jesus, but they have to also show they should have done so. That is slightly more tricky [and DF to his credit has managed to do just this]. This is why kooky Mythicist claims that, say, because Marcus Annaeus Lucanus [more than a dozen ancient names with an interest in the sorts of things Jesus was noted for, names listed below] makes no mention of Jesus he therefore didn’t exist [it is reasonable to ask why] are so utterly ridiculous. It is very difficult to show why a Roman poet from Spain whose sole remaining works are a single poem and a history of the war between Caesar and Pompey (in the century before Jesus was even born!) “should” have mentioned Jesus when he shows zero interest in Jewish affairs and makes no mention of any other Jewish preachers, prophets, wonder workers or Messianic claimants [so it should be noted that DF makes no such assertion and my example here is merely a cheap shot presented as a silly substitute for the many pertinent examples of authors DF does list and explain. I have no intention of mentioning any of the names he uses to make his case lest anyone think he might have a case after all]. (2013)
  • This [DF’s supposedly “inferred claim” that there were scores of writers who spoke of failed messiahs — see part 5] is because they don’t exist and his claim is complete garbage [flawed — if one ignores the Roman historian exceptions who do indeed mention some messianic hopefuls and whom I completely forgot about]. Which means his whole argument collapses. . . . . (2013)
  • And these people [Christ Myth theorists like DF, at no time I know,] pretend [have ever claimed] they can’t get taken seriously by real scholars because of some vast academic conspiracy [– we all know people like DF are not “conspiracy theorists” and that they do no more than point to the fundamental conservatism of the academy as explicitly addressed often enough by their own peers: Crossley, Hoffmann, Avalos . . . ]. Any rational person can see that someone like Fitzgerald can’t [can] be taken seriously because he can’t [can and does] back up his claims and keep his key arguments from collapsing in a heap. [My] Bluster doesn’t obscure[s the] basic [arguments that DF has presented — and I think I have done a good job of suppressing them completely with my bluster. No reader of my review would have the slightest notion of his real case.] incompetence. (2013)

In case you didn’t get TO’s message:

  • There was nothing distinctive about the public acts of Jesus so we should not expect any contemporary to have noticed him
  • Other writers had no interest in any Jewish preachers and miracle-workers anyway — so why would they have noticed Jesus?

TO’s Jesus is unfalsifiable

Of course what DF has done is argue that his version of Jesus was quite irrelevant to the origins of Christianity. The whole movement depended upon the overblown faith of Paul and the like who said a nobody Jesus was now the great, exalted, pre-existent, universe-sustaining and creator divinity being worshiped along with God himself.

TO is supposedly a student of ancient history, I believe. I would have thought he’d at least acknowledge that large crowds — enough to worry the Jewish establishment — coming out to proclaim Jesus as the Davidic King as he entered Jerusalem would have attracted even Roman interest. Even before then, large crowds coming out to follow anyone — even in the “backblocks of Galilee” (Galilee was hardly a “backblock” as TO would surely know) would also have attracted the attention of rulers back in those days. Or maybe Jesus was simply not inspiring or charismatic enough to attract large followings. Maybe, as TO implies throughout, he was no more distinctive than any other Jewish preacher of the day. Any one of them could have been the one in whom the disciples, especially Paul, saw God living so powerfully that they were able to persuade scores, even hundreds, of others, including those in far off lands, to place their eternal life in his hands and die for him. And this is seriously advanced as the “most economical” or “most plausible” explanation for the origins of Christianity!

TO’s Jesus is, quite simply, “unfalsifiable”. That is, he is an invalid hypothesis as “the” explanation for Christianity. He is nothing more than speculation that generates more questions than answers. He is, as Thomas L. Thompson himself rightly points out, nothing more than an assumption.

So what does DF argue? What is his evidence?

DF explains why he believes an argument from silence can sometimes have real force:

Argument from Silence means:

1) Should the writer in question have been able to know what Jesus said and did?

2) Did the writer have reason to talk about these things at some point?

If the answer to these is yes, and yet we still find no trace anywhere in their writings, it’s reasonable to ask why.

Compounding the problem is that the Gospels all insist that Jesus was renowned not just throughout all Jerusalem but the entire region of Palestine, the Decapolis and Syria. If you add the book of Acts, then Jesus’ fame supposedly quickly spreads to Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Rome and still further, throughout the Mediterranean world. (p. 42)

Here are the contemporaries DF believes we might expect to have made some mention of Jesus. We may disagree. We may argue with DF’s reasons in each case. But DF has presented a case for each one and any rebuttal needs to address his arguments. TO has instead ignored (suppressed) DF’s arguments both for any specific name and for the weight of all names being silent.

Seneca the Younger (c. 3 B.C.E. – 65) . . . Stoic philosopher, writer, statesman, and de facto ruler of the Empire for many years . . . [In] On Superstition, Seneca lambasts every known religion, including Judaism. But strangely, he makes no mention whatsoever of Christianity, which was supposedly spreading like wildfire across the empire. This uncomfortable fact later made Augustine squirm in his theological treatise City of God (book 6, chapter 11) as he tried mightily to explain away Seneca’s glaring omission. . . . (p. 34)

Gallio (died 65 C.E.) Seneca’s silence is compounded by the fact that his older brother was Junius Annaeus Gallio . . . According to the author of the book of Acts (18:12-17), Gallio was the magistrate who heard Paul’s case and threw it out of court. If this is true, it’s curious that Gallio never seems to have told his brother about this amazing Jesus character that everyone was so excited about, since Seneca was very interested in just this sort of thing. (p. 35)

Jewish historian Justus of Tiberias (died c. 101) was a native of Tiberias in Galilee (not far from Jesus’ hometown), was personal secretary to King Herod Agrippa II (who allegedly met the apostle Paul), and even wrote a history of the Kingdom of Judah covering the entire time when Jesus lived. . . . [H]e doesn’t say a single thing [about Jesus]. (p. 35)

Nicolaus of Damascus (c. late 1st century B.C.E. – early 1st century C.E.) was, among many other things . . . personal friend, advisor and court historian to King Herod the Great. Nicolaus wrote a world history in 144 books up to the end of Herod’s reign, relying heavily on Herod’s personal memoirs and of course his own firsthand knowledge . . . He would have been an eyewitness [at the time of the birth of Jesus]. . . (p. 36)

Philo of Alexandria (c.20 B.C.E. – c. 50) Writer, political commentator . . . Around thirty of his books still survive, not just his extensive philosophical treatises on Judaism, but also his commentaries on contemporary politics and events of note affecting the Jews.

He was certainly interested in fringe religions, and not afraid to talk about them. He wrote a great deal on other Jewish sects of the time, such as the Essenes and the Therapeutae, but nothing on Jesus, or on Christianity either, even though his home of Alexandria was supposedly one of the early cradles of Christianity.

Philo was in just the right time and place to be a brilliant historical witness to Jesus. He lived before, during and after the alleged time of Christ, and he had strong connections to Jerusalem. He didn’t just spend time in Jerusalem – his family was intimately connected with the royal house of Judea. . . . (p. 37)

One might also add here the extent of detail Philo did write about with respect to happenings in Judea in his own day. Unjust judgements by officials were noticed and discussed. Anything approaching the irregularities of the trial of Jesus, let alone his royal entry into the city followed by his offending the Temple leaders by his actions in the Temple, are arguably the sorts of things we would expect Philo to have noticed. The case is not as open and shut as DF claims.

Pausanias was a 2nd century Greek travel writer whose stops included Antioch, Joppa, Jerusalem and the banks of the river Jordan. He was fascinated by all kinds of gods, holy relics and sacred or mysterious things, frequently pausing in his descriptions to relate local legends or digress on the wonders of nature, including earthquakes and meteorological phenomena. (p. 38)

Aelius Aristides (117 -181) . . . wrote extensively on his own visions of various gods, especially Asclepius. He was obsessed with pursuing miraculous healing of his endless imagined illnesses, which stretched on for 38 years. He wrote his best work on sacred teachings, and his other writings are praised for their social history of Asia Minor (where many early Christian communities existed). Yet nowhere do Jesus’ sacred teachings or his impact on history appear. (p. 38-39)

Marcus Cornelius Fronto (100-166) wrote Discourse against the Christians, of which only a single fragment survives. But judging by the reactions to his work, Jesus’ exploits never seem to have been mentioned. (p. 39)

Maximus of Tyre (c. 2nd century) was a Greek philosophical lecturer who drew upon a wide range of philosophies and mysticism. In fact, it was Maximus who turned the early Christian theologians on to Platonism. But he has nothing to say about Jesus’ teachings. (p. 39)

Athenaeus of Naucratis (c. 200) A Greek writer living in Egypt, Athenaeus wrote the monumental 15- volume work Deipnosophistae, “Philosophers at Dinner,” which records a series of seemingly endless, meandering conversations that range over most every conceivable subject, with countless digressions . . . It is rather odd that in all these conversations, Christians or Christianity never once came up. This may be because Christianity was a small movement not on anyone’s radar at the time – except this is almost 200 years after Christianity began and Egypt was supposedly one of the early centers of the faith. . . . Christian tradition claimed that Egypt had a line of bishops starting from the time of Mark. (p. 39)

Lucius Flavius Philostratus (c.170 – c. 244) Greek-born Roman courtier and writer. He is best known for his biography of Apollonius of Tyana, but he also wrote Lives of the Sophists, a collection of biographical sketches of illustrious men. Like Jesus, Apollonius performs miracles and healings, drives out demons, prophesies, gains a large following and comes back from the dead. But Jesus himself gets no mention from Philostratus in either book. (p. 40)

Diogenes Laertius (c. early 3rd century) wrote Lives of the Philosophers, a monumental encyclopedia documenting in detail all the philosophical schools prominent in his day. Luke certainly painted Christianity as a philosophical school . . . . (p. 40)

Sextus Empiricus (c. 3rd century) wrote a massive collection of books refuting practically every philosophy that existed at the time, in elaborate detail. Just as with Diogenes Laertius’ compendium of philosophy, Christianity never gets a mention. (p. 40)

DF refers to several other names as well as to the questionable evidence in the Jewish Talmud.

The complement of DF’s argument above is what he describes as the “suspicious state” of the surviving evidence. The suspicion is aroused when we understand that Christians themselves were largely responsible for what documents did survive into our times. Yet TO’s review gives not a single hint that this is a significant part of DF’s argument.

First, recall the omission of mention of Jesus in one of Seneca’s works, On Superstition, above.

. . . . It is very curious that [this book] wasn’t saved, since nearly everything else Seneca wrote was preserved. Christians should have loved a text that attacked Jews and pagans, especially by such an eminent pagan philosopher as Seneca. It is also the only Senecan text we would expect to mention Christianity, so the disappearance of this particular book out of well over a hundred surviving writings of Seneca seems suspicious. . . . . (p. 44)

Then there is Philo again:

Eusebius mentions that Philo also wrote a book on Pilate’s persecution of the Jews (Historia Ecclesiastica, book 2, ch.5) – one more book where Jesus certainly should have been mentioned, but obviously wasn’t, since neither Eusebius nor anyone else ever cites this book for historical documentation of Jesus and his famous execution under Pilate’s watch. (p. 44)

DF sees a suspicious loss from the works of Hippolytus:

Church father Hippolytus’ magnum opus was his ten-volume A Refutation of All Heresies, . . . . At the end of book 1, Hippolytus declares that he will proceed to blow the lid off all the secret teachings of the mystery faiths, but those next two books are mysteriously missing. So the one place that could have told us how much the Christians borrowed or adapted from pagan mystery religions was inexplicably lost from the collection. (p. 45)

The next loss is from Dio Cassius. This covers the supposed period of Jesus’ birth. No single loss like this could be deemed suspicious, but DF’s point is that we do see something of a pattern — and in the context when Christians themselves had the primary responsibility for what documents were being preserved.

Roman historian Cassius Dio (or Dio Cassius) spent twenty-two years chronicling 983 years of Roman history in 80 volumes. . . . [T]he 35th through the 60th books are complete – with just a single exception: Book 55 (from the years 12 B.C.E. to 9 C.E.) strangely has a considerable gap in it. What’s more, this puzzling blackout is apparently quite pervasive; even subsequent epitomes by other authors don’t know what Dio had to say here, though they can often fill gaps in the text elsewhere. . .

Oxford historian Peter Swan notes that Dio’s surviving material implies that he discussed Herod the Great’s death in this section of missing text. . . . But on the other hand, if Dio didn’t [mention any of the supposed events surrounding Jesus’ birth], then this otherwise unlikely hole in the middle of Dio’s record suddenly does make sense – as a victim of surgical editing by displeased Christian scribes. (pp. 44-45)

Tacitus is known to many for his mention of Jesus when writing about Nero’s persecution of Christians. In this instance we see DF is not alone in his suspicions:

Christians treasured his off-the-cuff mention of Christ . . . . But it appears they didn’t want to save quite everything Tacitus wrote. His history of the emperor Tiberius has a curious gap of two years – from mid-29 C.E. to mid-31 C.E., including all of the year 30, often regarded as a likely year of the Crucifixion. In the American Journal of Ancient History, Vanderbilt University classical historian Robert Drews argues that early Christians deliberately expunged the section, and that this one spot was targeted because Christians were embarrassed by the great historian failing to make any mention of Jesus’ death, or any of the spectacular events that occurred at the time of the Crucifixion. If Christians didn’t squelch this passage, its absence is otherwise very strange and hard to explain (unlike other gaps in Tacitus, as Drews notes). One might wonder if Christians destroyed the passage because it made a negative comment about Christ. But this is unlikely, since if Tacitus had something bad to say about Christ he would have said so when he made his famous remark about Nero blaming the Christians for the fire in Rome. And actually, he would not have had to make his side comment there in the first place if he had already mentioned Christ earlier. (p. 46)

Just as Plutarch was getting warmed up with his comparisons between the Jewish God and pagan Dionysus and Adonis . . .

There is another suspicious gap in book 4, chapter 6 of Plutarch’s Symposiacs (Table Talk). . . . He . . . starts listing examples of similarities between “the mysteries of the Jews” and the mystery religions of Dionysus, Bacchus and Adonis. But in the middle of this the text is cut off, and the rest of that scroll is missing, although the table of contents shows several sections remaining . . . so the loss appears deliberate . . . (p. 47)

The next name would remind readers here of the series on “The Letters Supposedly Written by Ignatius” by Roger Parvus:

Peregrinus Proteus (c. 95-165 C.E.) was a Cynic philosopher-turned-Christian from Parium in northwest Asia Minor. During his career as a Christian in Palestine, he became a top church leader, expounding and commenting on the scriptures – and reportedly even writing a number of them himself! . . . So what happened to all these Christian commentaries?

Unfortunately for Peregrinus, he is best remembered as the target of Lucian’s Passing of Peregrinus, in which Lucian told everyone what a vain, pompous, conniving charlatan Peregrinus had been. . . . [T]here was no way the humiliated Christians would tolerate having his name attached to anything remotely connected to their religion. (p. 47)

DF’s conclusion:

Why didn’t anyone notice Jesus? As we can see, it’s ridiculous to say we just don’t have many records surviving from the alleged time of Jesus. The truth is, not only did plenty of contemporary historical accounts survive from the first century, but many of these very writers were in the right time and place and had excellent motive to have written about Jesus’ famous life, teachings, ministry and miracles. But there is no external corroboration for anything written in the Gospels. . . . (p. 49)

TO has done his readers a disservice by making any real argument or discussion of DF’s arguments impossible. Had he addressed the data that DF advanced as evidence for his argument then he may have been able to explain why he drew different conclusions about it all and why DF’s interpretations are not persuasive.

If he was able to persuade everyone on this basis then he would have done both his readers and many mythicists, not to mention those on the side-lines, a real service. Their conclusions would then have been based on knowledge of the arguments and evidence and a reasoned discussion about them all. I can’t imagine a better way to persuade reasonable people.

If TO does not believe mythicists are reasonable then he at least owes it to his own readers and others opposed to the mythicist view to make it possible for them to base their views on the relevant information.

Presumably TO believes his supporters prefer repetitious bluster, brow-beating of their opponents and ignoring what they say, to engaging in informed discussion.

I’m sure I’ve pointed out enough to show any neutral observer where TO is coming from, but I will do at least one more. I can’t resist showing what a complete hash he has made of the evidence in Josephus.

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15 Comments

  • 2014-01-09 11:40:24 GMT+0000 - 11:40 | Permalink

    Does Philo mention any particular people whose story, location, and socioeconomic status is roughly similar to that attributed to Jesus?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-01-09 16:01:08 GMT+0000 - 16:01 | Permalink

      You are, of course, gently reminding me of Philo’s mention of the madman Carabbas whom at least one historical Jesus scholar (John Dominic Crossan) has compared with Jesus:

      Cf Philo’s Flaccus VI: There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all this days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths; and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a sceptre they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the way side and gave to him; and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others making as though they wished to plead their causes before him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state. Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the kings among the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign;

      • 2014-01-10 05:16:03 GMT+0000 - 05:16 | Permalink

        Usually a question like that is rhetorical, but I did not know the answer (and thought the question would be a good way to find out). Thanks for the reference.

    • avicenna
      2014-01-10 02:44:46 GMT+0000 - 02:44 | Permalink

      Here’s a web site you may have encountered once or twice:

      http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/yonge/book40.html

      Philo wrote (Embassy to Gaius)
      “For he began at first to liken himself to those beings who are called demigods, such as Bacchus, and Hercules, and the twins of Lacedaemon; turning into utter ridicule Trophonius, and Amphiaraus, and Amphilochus, and others of the same kind, with all their oracles and secret ceremonies, in comparison of his own power. (79) In the next place, like an actor in a theatre, he was continually wearing different dresses at different times, taking at one time a lion’s skin and a club, both gilded over; being then dressed in the character of Hercules; at another time he would wear a felt hat upon his head, when he was disguised in imitation of the Spartan twins, Castor and Pollux; sometimes he also adorned himself with ivy, and a thyrsus, and skins of fawns, so as to appear in the guise of Bacchus. (80) And he looked upon himself as being in this respect superior to all of these beings, because each of them while he had his own peculiar honours had no claim to those which belonged to the others, but he in his envious ambition appropriated all the honours of the whole body of demigods at once, or I should rather say, appropriated the demigods themselves; transforming himself not into the triple-bodied Geryon, so as to attract all beholders by the multitude of his bodies; but, what was the most extraordinary thing of all, changing and transforming the essence of one body into every variety of form and figure, like the Egyptian Proteus, whom Homer has represented as being susceptible of every variety of transformation, into all the elements, and into the animals, and plants, which belong to the different Elements.{5}{the passage in Homer is to be found at Odyssey 4.363. It is imitated more concisely by Virgil, Georg. 4.410, who makes Cyrene tell Aristaeus (which is thus translated by Pope)–“Instant he wears, elusive of the rape, / The mimic force of every savage shape: / Or glides with liquid lapse a murm’ring stream, / Or wrapt in flame, he glows at every limb. / Yet still retentive, with redoubled might / Thro’ each vain passive form constrains his flight. / But when, his native shape resumed, he stands / Patient of conquest, and your cause demands; / The cause that urg’d the bold attempt declare, / And soothe the vanquish’d with a victor’s prayer. / The bands relaxed, implore the seer to say / What godhead interdicts the wat’ry way.”} (81) And yet why, O Gaius! did you think yourself in need of spurious honours, such as the temples and statues of the beings above-mentioned are often filled with? You ought rather to have imitated their virtues. Hercules purified both the earth and the sea, performing labours of the greatest possible importance and of the highest benefit to all mankind, in order to eradicate all that was mischievous and calculated to injure the nature of each of the elements.”

      Philo’s feigned admiration for Herakles, above, clarifies his willingness to summarize the legends and mythical conduct of one he knows, with certainty, as a faithful, practicing, religious Jew, did not exist.

  • 2014-01-09 11:55:55 GMT+0000 - 11:55 | Permalink

    ‘After all, Jesus was just another nobody Jewish peasant and miracle worker — they were a dime a dozen…’

    So why did Josephus think of him as ‘a wise man’, and place his death in a section devoted to recent national calamities affecting the Jews?

    Why would Josephus write ‘a relatively laudatory passage’ about somebody who was a dime a dozen?

    Methinks, O’Neill hasn’t managed to join up his thoughts to produce a coherent picture.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2014-01-09 20:01:43 GMT+0000 - 20:01 | Permalink

      . . . join up his thoughts to produce a coherent picture.

      On the HJ side, it’s OK for the arguments to be hermetically sealed. At one moment, they can talk about their proverbial mountain of evidence, while in the next, they can chide mythicists for expecting a mountain of evidence about an obscure Galilean preacher.

      Fortunately for the HJ side, millions will buy Ehrman’s book “debunking” Mythicism, and never bother to read Doherty or Price. Similarly, those who read TO and nod in happy agreement won’t check to see what DF actually wrote.

  • 2014-01-09 13:52:43 GMT+0000 - 13:52 | Permalink

    “Yet DF’s review gives not a single hint that this is a significant part of DF’s argument.”

    Did you mean TO’s review?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-01-09 16:02:51 GMT+0000 - 16:02 | Permalink

      Fixed, thanks.

  • Ken Browning
    2014-01-09 17:05:00 GMT+0000 - 17:05 | Permalink

    Get the latest review on the life of Jesus to be shown this coming Sunday night on the History Channel — ‘Honey, I shrunk the Jesus!’. The twist at the end will have you on the edge of your seats as scholars use magic juice to blow him back up into an enticing theologian.

  • Greg
    2014-01-09 22:13:25 GMT+0000 - 22:13 | Permalink

    I see the entire issue of the potential mentioning of Jesus as nothing more than a red herring which distracts from the complete unfalsifiability of the HJ hypothesis. To so much as entertain this argument (as though the total absence of evidence somehow exonerates scholars of the need to properly support their conclusions) is, in my opinion, to subject oneself to a well-rounded game of “Heads I win, Tails you lose”. The historical Jesus Tim O’Neill is positing is essentially a complete non-entity; an amorphous blob that can’t be nailed down on a single distinguishable attribute; a stick-bug that could never be discerned from any twig; an accomplished spy who deftly avoids all detection. His position is ultimately unassailable as long as there exist any cracks of obscurity into which Jesus could have escaped because his Jesus is a god of the gaps. In his mind Fitzgerald’s arguments to the contrary are simply emblematic of a failure to parse just how skilled Jesus was at blending in hence the mere repetition of his assertion as though no objection had ever been raised.

    It’s interesting to note how, in some ways, the historical Jesus is far more extraordinary than the miracle-working one.

  • 2014-01-10 03:35:27 GMT+0000 - 03:35 | Permalink

    I still say if Jesus was noticeable at all, it would be to Josephus…and with more than a single reference. Would Jesus be any less noticeable to Josephus than Judas the Galilean? If Judas the Galilean caught Josephus’ attention, I can’t see why Jesus didn’t rate as many references.

    Look how much Peregrinus Proteas attracted so much attention…and as they say, any publicity is good publicity…especially when one considers he was probably Polycarp. Lucian’s account needn’t necessarily have lost him any new rubes.

    Interestingly, now I’m aware of Polycarp’s Peregrinus alter-ego…I have less respect for anything Polycarp ever claimed.

  • Steven Carr
    2014-01-10 12:39:11 GMT+0000 - 12:39 | Permalink

    If we can expect that no contemporary would have written about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, then just who were these independent sources where Tacitus read that Christ had been executed by Pilate?

    • 2014-01-10 22:49:32 GMT+0000 - 22:49 | Permalink

      We have to remember that references through Tacitus have usually come through later Christians and we don’t have originals or independent records to find out exactly what Tacitus said.

      What we have is a reference to ChEstians when referring back to that mid-point of the first century.

      “Chrestians” simply mean “of the Good.”

      So all that was being referred to was a sect associated with a “Good One” or a “good God” that could easily have been from the Platonic idea (refer to the Timaeus).

      Interestingly, Mark has a character called BarTimaeus (Aramaic: “SON of Timaeus). Quite a pun there in that name.

      That’s just the point: Plato’s works have a Son of God, they have a cosmic cross, they have a Logos. You don’t really need a Historical Jesus if you’ve got all that from Plato. So at roughly the time there’s supposed to be a Jesus and a disciple named John or John Mark talking about the Logos…in the real world you have PHILO, a Hellenic Jew in Alexandria, trying to explain Jewish thought in a way that Greeks associated with Plato would understand.

      Note that, Steven Carr…in the real world, contemporary records, we have Philo raving on about the Logos. Doesn’t even need a John applying it to a historical Jesus at all.

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